Best Practices for Scalable Learning in Adtech

May 8, 2015 — by Elise James-Decruise    

A big ‘thank you’ to Digiday for sharing “How Starcom Trained 1,200 Employees to Speak Programmatic.” It’s a fascinating mini case study of the strategic decisions and priorities that mobilized a successful training program across an entire organization. We’d like to build on the excitement generated by that success story by sharing the New Marketing Institute’s (NMI) best practices for scalable learning in adtech.

“Meet the Learner Where They Are.”

Everything we do at NMI starts with this mantra! Our mission is to create a learning environment where people feel “safe” to learn. This means acknowledging and responding to learners’ different needs and learning styles by offering varied levels of curriculum and collaterals that scaffold their learning. The theme could also be taken literally – ensuring learning tools are comprehensible locally and globally across your organization and client base by investing in translation. It also means helping participants want to learn. Once you’ve ensured that content is accessible, provide clear learning objectives: What are the real world benefits of this learning? What is expected of the learners afterwards? How will their mastery of the content be evaluated? The content should appeal to them as people, not just as workers. We can distill “meet the learner where they are” into a commitment to 3 basic principles:

1. Adopt a Blended Learning Approach. Multiple intelligence theory tells us that some people are visual learners, some kinetic, some auditory, and so on. A variety of teaching methods, content types, and delivery methods will keep engagement high and maximize the chances your teaching meets everyone’s needs. Treat blended learning like the fully integrated program it is, rather than a solution that happens to have a piece of this and a piece of that. Involve stakeholders in selecting the most appropriate blended learning elements for the purpose and audience. The New Marketing Institute’s blending learning approaches include:

• Facilitator-led (live sessions) – There is really no substitute for a live classroom with a competent, engaging teacher who can give feedback on the spot, but it is far from the only method.

• E-learning – The content and delivery method is purely online. It includes webinars, videoconferencing, online quizzes, surveys, infographics, Twitter feeds, streaming video, blogs, and many more.

On-Demand (self-directed) – Content tailored to participants’ schedules, maximizing “on-the-go” moments like a morning train commute. Participants orient themselves in the coursework as based on what’s valuable to their learning and ignore what isn’t. On-demand learners are never held back by the pace of the slowest learner, unlike live classrooms. They own their own learning and can skip content or take a refresher, as needed.

Train-the-Trainer – Your most scalable learning strategy, this involves teaching colleagues or clients how to teach critical content. If poorly planned and executed this strategy will have big consequences that will take considerable time to fix. Build out your content, pair it with a Facilitation Best Practices course, and conduct “teach backs” to evaluate their skills in real-time.

Documentation – Be relevant, up to date, and comprehensive for terms, processes, product offerings, and software. Always design documentation with your specific audience(s) in mind. But be accessible in terms of location too. Think about where it should “live” and who should have access. Plan a regular cadence for updates.

2. Bite Size is the Right Size. Short, engaging content is generally more effective than longer, more tedious lessons. Why? The human brain is optimally wired to learn in short, efficient bursts.  Effective formats include email, online posts, short multimedia videos, chat sessions, games, quizzes, business simulations and case studies, podcasts, blogs, articles, and slideshows. Microlearning is consumable via devices such as cell phone, tablet, or laptop. Our partnership with Grovo enables us to teach complicated adtech concepts via digestible 60-second videos.

3. Partner with Trusted Advisors. You can’t do it alone and you shouldn’t do it alone! Whether it is a tech solution provider or an organization to translate or co-develop content, choose your partners carefully.  Select an LMS that integrates with other tools you currently use. (Can you schedule events? Connect with live events? Assign homework? Track engagement?) Always rely on internal subject matter experts to vet content from vendors and other partners.

We wish you every success in building out a scalable learning program for your teams and clients! It takes time and resources to do this effectively, but, in the end, an investment in educating your employees and clients in programmatic means you are creating an investment in your programmatic offering.